Cartographic exchange and territorial creation: Rewriting Northern Japan in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

Edward Boyle

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The Tokugawa era (1603–1868) witnessed a dramatic expansion in the creation and circulation of maps, which moved from being comparatively rare items at the beginning of the period to banal objects of mass-circulation at the end. Yet the shape of Japan being represented on these maps was greatly altered over the course of this period, particularly with regards to the amorphous area north of Japan, known as Ezo. This transformation in geographical representation similarly affected visions of Japan held beyond its shores, which were partially the product of an increasingly, if punctuated and inconsistent, global circulation of geographic materials in comprehensible forms. The geography of these northern areas of Japan was gradually clarified by the early nineteenth century, as European efforts at mapping the region were combined with the results of a succession of Tokugawa state-sponsored exhibitions that explicitly aimed to increase the state’s knowledge of its diffuse northern reaches. It will be argued here that the relational aspect of cartographic exchange is crucial to the demarcation of this territory as being Japanese and under the authority of the Tokugawa state. Greater appreciation for the exchange involved in cartographic territorial creation not only allows for the transnational process of state demarcation to be recovered, but also hints at the inherently relational nature of the imperial sovereignty that came to literally remap vast areas of the globe during the nineteenth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-98
Number of pages24
JournalLecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography
Issue number198039
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event6th International Symposium of the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography, 2016 - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Duration: Oct 13 2016Oct 15 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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